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Peacocks Bel Air asks What does black excellence mean now?

Handsome funny and cheerful charisma Will Smith could have excelled at anything he tried to be a 21yearold rapper in 1990. Fortunately for the kids growing up in that decade he turned to the small screen in the now classic sitcom on the network NBCs New Prince of BelAir. Viewers drawn to Smiths active presence found more love than one famous face. Every member of the wealthy steadfast loving Banks clan has become a foil to Wills streetsmart exuberance and every actor on the set shines. As Tatiana Ali who played Will Ashleys cousin noted at the 2020 special reunion Our show means black excellence for people.

It would be impossible to recreate this kind of comedic chemistry. To his credit the accepted reboot of Peacock whose first three episodes will hit the platform on February 13 isnt trying. Inspired by a topical satirical trailer for the 2019 adaptation of Dark Fresh Prince BelAir which includes both video masterminds Morgan Cooper and Smith among the executive producers is recasting the premise of the original series as fodder for a soapy drama. Newcomer Will Jabari Banks is a West Philadelphia basketball phenomenon who sees his future first division thrown into uncertainty when hes caught with a gun after a standoff with a gangster. Step into Uncle Will a powerful semidetached attorney to conceal the charges and keep him safe in one of Los Angeles most luxurious zip codes.

In this novel Uncle Phil Adrian Holmes runs for attorney general on a platform to end the pipeline from school to prison and Will fears he will be a mainstay of the campaign. Promoted from butler to house manager Jeffrey Jimmy Akingbula advises Phil about pool games. Tensions flare between Aunt Viv Cassandra Freeman who has given up a promising artistic career to raise her three children and Banks eldest daughter Hilary Coco Jones an influential figure striving to break into the culinary industry. While young Ashley Akira Akbar doesnt make much of an impression in the early episodes the new Carlton Oli Shulotan is a real shocker. The nerd Wills cousin a lacrosse player and snoring Xanax was barely ruling Bel Air Academy with an arrogant look—and he had no intention of sharing the spotlight.

BelAir doesnt feel distinct enough from many of the richest soaps on TV to become a classic. Dialogue can seem harsh and constant references to both the original show and Coopers video get tiring. Yet it has all the ingredients of a strong drama. True its not Will Smith theres only one of those but Jabari Banks makes a magnetic drive in his own right wisely undercutting the characters enthusiasm for a genre without laugh tracks. As the season progresses story lines touching on black fraternities community obligations to wealthy black families and intergenerational disagreements over advocacy of racism raise an intriguing question Three decades after the new prince what does black distinction look like now?

About Yashwa Malik

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